DVD: What You Always Wanted to Know (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

As you probably know, we specialise in converting VHS to DVD – so we spend a fair amount of time dealing with our good friend, the DVD. It’s been a ubiquitous media format for 20 years, but how much do you actually know about it?


Well, we thought we’d check out all the little facts and figures and other trivia surrounding DVDs. That way, not only will you look like a total whizz on Mastermind (Or in the pub quiz) with your chosen specialist subject: DVD – you’ll also have a new-found respect for the format, the next time you pop a disc in the tray to watch the movie.


The Basics

Ok, let’s start with the basics. Ask most people what DVD stands for and they’ll either shrug, or probably say ‘digital video disc’. Or they’ll tell you that it’s an acronym for ‘digital versatile disc’. And they’d both be right. Sort of. ‘Digital versatile disc’ is certainly what it’s formally known as these days, but that wasn’t always the case. DVD doesn’t actually stand for anything – it started out as just a random series of three letters that sounded good.


DVD first came about in 1994, when the two tech firms, Sony and Phillips announced plans to create a disc-based video; then rival companies Toshiba and Time Warner said they were also working on a disc format. There was only one snag – that sort of competition doesn’t bode well for anyone, least of all consumers.


Before then, the movie world was dominated first by VHS and Betamax, and then later, the not-quite-so dominant VCD and laserdisc – and look how that turned out for three of those four. And thanks to heavyweight hitters like Microsoft, Apple and Dell, the two sides agreed on a single, standard format. DVD was born.


The Specs

It wasn’t long before DVD became the format de rigueur. Partly, this was from novelty – interactive menus, anyone?, partly it was the movie studios choosing a shift from rental to retail, which meant tons of DVDs were produced, and partly, it was the absolute convenience of the technology. They were smaller than VHS cassettes, so could be easily stored, and more could go on the shelf. Mo’ space, mo’ money, if you will.


Ok, so let’s take a typical DVD disc – what’s the craic? Well, a standard, single-sided, single-layered disc holds a whopping 4.7GB of data; more than enough for not only a film, but also all those extras, like trailers and making-of documentaries, that we never knew we needed until DVD came along. You can up that to 8.7GB for a double-layered disc.


Double-sided, single-layered DVDs hold a colossal 9.4GB; and the big beast, the double-sided, double-layered disc holds a whopping 17GB – although these types of DVD are not just rare but also pretty inconvenient, since you’d have to manually flip the disc over to play the other side, like you would a vinyl.


So that’s four different DVD types:

  • DVD-5: 4.7GB
  • DVD-9: 8.7GB
  • DVD-10: 9.4GB
  • DVD-18: 17GB


The Record and Rewrite

Not long after, recordable DVDs were brought in, ostensibly as a form of data storage which replaced CD-Rs (That’s the single-use kind) and CD-RWs (The multiple use kind). Of course, it didn’t take long before consumers were using these to store not just data like word documents and spreadsheets, but also music and video.


Have you ever checked out a rewriteable or recordable DVD? The eagle-eyed among you may notice that there are four types: DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW. But what do those pluses and dashes actually mean?


Well, these days it’s not so much a concern, since most disc drives – especially on computers – can play both. But back in the late 90s and early 00s, these symbols denoted two different styles of recording; which meant that only a dash drive could record and play dash discs and pluses did the same for ‘+’ discs. Both discs hold roughly the same amount of data, although ‘plus’ discs write that data faster, and allow easier composition of the DVD’s contents. And thanks to the R/RW tech, making sure your wonderful memories last is even easier.


The Future

It’s a serious testament to DVDs’ durability and widespread popularity that even with the emergence of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, the format is still the number one choice. And thanks to the technology, transferring your old VHS memories on to DVD is a real cinch too. That’s where we can help, with high-quality transfers so you can enjoy your old home movies in the digital age. If you’d like to know more, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 and our pro team will be delighted to help.